Green Chili Burritos

This is not a fancy dish by any means, but it is one of the oldest comfort foods from my childhood. My mother began making a ground beef version of this flavorful chili when I was about 6. It’s easy to estimate my age at the time because we moved around a lot, and I can recall where we lived when certain memories were made. My mom was newly remarried and we had moved out west from upstate New York for my stepfather’s job as a truck driver. I loved my stepdad, but he was gone a lot, so it was frequently just my mom and me taking up space in a single-wide mobile home in rural southern Colorado, where Mexican flavors reign supreme.

You could barely see our little box of a house from the main road, which ran a straight line through the tiny town of about 350 people. There was a long, dusty driveway leading from the school bus stop, over some railroad tracks and past the big white propane tank that provided us fuel for heating and cooking. Occasionally, during deer season, I’d see a carcass hung up from a tree near our house, and that meant my new daddy had a good hunting trip and venison would soon be on the menu. Most days after school, our sweet little dog, Ginger, would meet me halfway on my walk from the bus, and on the days that I’d catch a whiff of my mom’s green chili when I opened the door—well, that’s a very happy memory.

A short time after, many things changed in my world. For the second time in my young life, my parents split. We moved again and the relationship with my mom began a sad but steady decline. I shuttled back and forth between parents (and states) until high school graduation, and then made the decision to move away on my own. Visits with my mother became few and far between, and eventually when I visited as an adult and requested the green chili, I learned that her recipe had shifted from the familiar ground beef to cubed pork. It was tasty, but I longed for the texture of the tender ground meat.

What I really wanted was a taste of happy childhood. Isn’t that what comfort food is?

I can taste my childhood in this chili.

The first time I made my own green chili, about 15 years ago, I used a flavorful pork sausage I had discovered at Whole Foods. The sausage was made in-house and was utterly addictive with its mild, smoky green chiles and spicy habanero peppers, and I found it a happy medium to provide the soft meat texture I loved about the first version of green chili I ever had and the rich, savory flavor of pork. When my local Whole Foods stopped making it, I was beyond disappointed. I figured I’d have to settle for plain ground pork going forward.

But recently, necessity being the mother of invention and all, I learned how to make my own spicy sausage and baby, I’m back!


I’m still in the learning stages of sausage production, but my imagination has run pretty wild, considering all the unique flavor possibilities before me. I have delved into a few other flavor combinations already, but I know it won’t be long before this one comes up in rotation again. It’s because the green chili burritos I made from the sausage was just that delicious—even better than any of the versions I made before. Link back to the homemade pork sausage post for the particulars on this sausage, or choose a store-bought sausage that has green chile flavors if you want a shortcut. Heck, maybe your Whole Foods still sells that sausage, and you’ll be in business.

This is my happy place. 🙂

The chili itself is the star of these burritos; the rest is just a tortilla rolled around seasoned beans and cheese. Accompanying the sausage were onions, garlic, flour and masa flour (for thickening), canned green chiles, fresh jalapeno (if you love the heat, as we do), a few simple seasonings, and broth (I used both veggie and chicken). Putting the chili together is easy, and then it settles in for a long, low simmer. If you have an extra day, let it sit in the fridge overnight because the flavors mingle even more for better flavor.


If you like, you can serve the finished chili just as it is—either by the steaming bowlful with a handful of shredded cheese or by ladling it over a burrito—but if it thins out more than you prefer during the cooking, whip up a bit of corn starch slurry and stream it in over medium heat. When it’s thickened and glossy, it’s ready to go.


At our house, we enjoyed this at dinner, lazily draped over bean and cheese burritos. And we enjoyed it again for a weekend breakfast, stuffing our tortillas with black beans, scrambled eggs and cheese, plus a scatter of fresh chopped tomatoes.


Green Chili Burritos

  • Servings: About 8
  • Difficulty: Average
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This dish speaks the language of my childhood, with comforting chili made from ground pork and all that beautiful, melty cheese.


Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. dried green chile flakes (mine were from Flatiron Pepper Co., available online)
  • 1.5 lbs. green chile pork sausage (store-bought, or my recipe which is included below)
  • 1 whole fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped (keep some of the seeds if you like it hot)
  • 2 or 3 Tbsp. additional EVOO to provide fat for roux
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. masa flour (Maseca)
  • 2 small cans (4 oz.) fire roasted diced green chiles
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (from toasted seeds if possible)
  • 4 cups low-sodium veggie or chicken broth (I used 2 cups of each)
  • Corn starch slurry with equal parts corn starch and ice water (About 1/3 cup total)
  • 2 cans refried beans, warmed with oil and onions (for serving burritos)
  • Large flour tortillas (for burritos)
  • 8 oz. block cheddar, colby jack or pepperjack cheese, shredded
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Directions

  1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add sausage, a bit at a time, to brown it without overcrowding the pan.
  3. Add jalapeno and drizzle with olive oil to provide fat for the roux. Stir in ground cumin.
  4. Sprinkle flour and masa all over the meat mixture and toss to coat, adding more oil if needed to make it sticky and evenly coated.
  5. Add veg or chicken broth, half at a time, stirring each to blend and thicken.
  6. Cover the pot, reduce heat and cook at a low simmer for a couple of hours. Aim to keep it below the boiling point so that the thickening doesn’t cook off. If the chili seems “thin” after its simmer, use the corn starch slurry to thicken it back up. Be sure to let it simmer vigorously for a few minutes to cook off the starchy flavor.
  7. To serve the chili over burritos, warm the refried beans in a skillet or deep saucepan with some sautéed onions. Add a generous spoonful of the beans onto the center of a large flour tortilla. Add a small handful of shredded cheese and roll it up, placing it seam side-down on an oven-safe plate. Ladle chili over the burrito, sprinkle on more shredded cheese and just a small amount of extra chili. Place in the hot oven or microwave to melt the cheese.

Below are the ingredients I used in the green chile sausage. Full instruction for making the sausage can be found in my previous post for homemade pork sausage.

Ingredients

  • Pork shoulder cubes (gram weight of pork determines how much seasoning blend to use)
  • 1 tsp. Flatiron Pepper Co. hatch green chile blend (for mild, smoky flavor)
  • 1 tsp. Flatiron Pepper Co. four pepper blend (includes chiles de arbol, ghost and habanero for lots of heat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
  • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper



Almond Joy Brownie Bites

My taste for chocolate has evolved exponentially since childhood. The candy bars I loved back then—Kit Kat, Snickers, Mounds and Almond Joy were some of my favorites—all fall a little flat now that I have experienced fine, artisan chocolates. After you develop a palate for high quality, single-origin chocolate, it’s tough to go back. But occasionally, nostalgia sneaks in and makes me crave a taste of yesteryear, and that’s what happened when I had to reach past a jar of unsweetened coconut to get to my go-to brownie mix.

Why couldn’t I turn my brownies into a play on an Almond Joy candy bar, I thought, but with an elevated presentation and more texture? I reached for almonds, too, and had only one dilemma—how to incorporate the coconut so that it didn’t get lost into the brownies. I didn’t just want the flavors of an Almond Joy to be present, I wanted it to look kind of like an Almond Joy candy bar, too, and that meant I could not just add coconut to the brownie mix. No, I needed to create a filling that would be enveloped inside the brownie, and I wanted it to be bite size with two almonds, just like the candy bar.

These miniature, two-bite brownies were a home run!

I found a recipe on Pinterest for a coconut filling intended for layer cakes, and as I considered the steps of cooking the milk and sugar together until it was dissolved and thickened, it occurred to me: isn’t that basically sweetened condensed milk, and why not just use that? It was perfect for transforming plain, shredded coconut into a thick, sticky, coconutty filling.


My brownie mix got an extra boost of dark chocolate from a spoonful of dark cocoa powder. I did this because I always wished that the candy company had made a dark chocolate version of the Almond Joy—sort of a Mounds-Almond Joy combination thing. I also gave the almond flavor a boost with a touch of almond extract added to the liquid ingredients used to make the brownie batter.


A few more notes worth mentioning before I dive into a visual walk-through of how I put these fun little treats together:

To keep this from being too sweet, I combined equal amounts of sweetened and unsweetened shredded coconut. The latter is sometimes labeled “dessicated” coconut, and you can find it in the baking aisle of a well-stocked supermarket or online from Bob’s Red Mill (where I get it). This is my preferred coconut for most recipes—cookies, smoothies, muffins, etc.—and I chose to use some of it here because I knew the filling would be sweet enough with the addition of the condensed milk and the amount of sweetened coconut. I pulsed the coconut in the food processor, too, to knock down some of the shaggy texture.

My go-to brownie mix is Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate, but (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) the chocolate chunks included in the mix may not be right for this recipe. If you are making this as mini muffins, as I did, you will find that the melted chocolate bits hinder the work of loosening and removing the brownie bites from the pan. The dark chocolate flavor is great but consider using a brownie mix that doesn’t have chips or pieces of chocolate in it; you’ll have an easier time removing the brownie bites without breaking them.

Finally, and this is important, the amounts of brownie batter and coconut filling exceed what is needed in the 24-count mini muffin pan. I had enough of both left over to make a small skillet brownie, and trust me when I tell you, that was not a bad decision either. If you decide to do this, I’d like to suggest that you eat it warm. Mmm…

Yes, really.

OK, preheat the oven to the temperature suggested on your brownie mix, and let’s get this started!

So, was all this necessary? Couldn’t I have just chopped up some Almond Joy candies and added them to the brownies, the way I did with the Leftover Snickers Brownies I made at Halloween a few years ago? Sure, and that would have been tasty, too, but this was a lot more fun. 😊


Almond Joy Brownie bites

  • Servings: 24 brownie bites
  • Difficulty: average
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This is a fun way to dress up a box mix, bringing together the flavors of a classic candy bar with fudgy, soft and chewy brownies.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 box brownie mix plus ingredients on package to make them
  • 1 Tbsp. dark cocoa powder, optional
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract, optional
  • 24 whole raw almonds
  • a few pinches flaky sea salt, optional

Note that this recipe will yield more batter and coconut filling than you will need for a single pan of mini muffin-size brownie bites. Plan ahead to use up the rest in a small baking dish or extra mini muffin pan.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F, or whatever temperature is recommended for the brownie mix. Generously butter the inside of every cup on a mini muffin pan.
  2. Combine sweetened and unsweetened coconuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to make a finer texture. Transfer the coconut to a bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk and stir until evenly blended. This will be a thick, sticky mixture.
  3. Prepare brownie batter, adding the dark cocoa to the dry mix and the almond extract to the liquids. Fill the mini muffin cups about halfway. Scoop out a small amount of coconut filling and roll it between your hands into a ball about the size of a marble. Press the coconut ball into a muffin cup, letting the batter come up the sides around it. Repeat with the remaining muffin cups, then drop a slight spoonful of batter on top to fully enclose the coconut ball. You will have a significant amount of batter left over. See Step 5 for suggestions.
  4. Place two almonds on each brownie bite and scatter a few small pinches of flaky sea salt over the pan. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes. Allow brownie bites to cool in the pan until they are easy to handle. Run a thin rounded knife around the edges of the brownie bites to aid in releasing them. Let them cool completely on a plate or tray.
  5. With the remaining batter and filling, we made a warm miniature skillet brownie for two. This could also be baked up in a small glass baking dish, or make a second batch of mini brownie bites when the pan is fully cooled. Use the same method of layering coconut filling over about half of the batter, then pour the last of the batter over to cover it. Sprinkle with chopped almonds and bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy warm!



Raspberry-Rhubarb “Pop Tarts”

Show me a kid who doesn’t eat pop tarts, and I’ll say that kid doesn’t spend nearly enough time at Grandma’s house. For me, one of the treats of being with Gram—besides that I simply loved her company and always had fun learning and making things—was getting “spoiled” a bit with certain foods that were not necessarily available at home. It isn’t that I loaded up on junk food at her house; that definitely was not the case. But I was allowed to grab handfuls of Cap’n Crunch cereal, right out of the box, to munch on while I watched Saturday morning cartoons from the big wing chair. Gram could be persuaded to purchase an occasional box of strawberry Pop-Tarts (assuming she had a coupon), and I did so love spreading my toast with banana- or cinnamon-flavored peanut butter. Please tell me you do remember Koogle, don’t you?


I would give anything to relive some of those sweet childhood memories and to appreciate the simple joys more than I did in the moment, especially the sputtering sound of Gram’s pressure cooker or the metronome-like sound of the pendulum on the cuckoo clock that hung on the back wall of the den. Just remembering the zipping sound it made when Grandpa pulled down the clock chains to reset it every evening makes me feel calmer inside. And, just like that, my eyes are misty—talk amongst yourselves, I need a moment.


These days, all the clocks in my house are digital display, with blue lights, and most of them keep me awake at night. Sugary cereals and funky-flavored peanut butters don’t stand a chance in my kitchen, and neither do most of the convenience snacks that have all kinds of who-knows-what ingredients. But I have been thinking about how simple it would be to make a homemade version of at least one favorite childhood treat, and to incorporate a flavor that Kellogg’s never would have thought of.

That’s how these raspberry-rhubarb “pop tarts” came to be, and they were ridiculously simple to make with store-bought pie crust dough and a fruity mashup that I made with my most recent score of rhubarb. Gram always had rhubarb in the spring and summer, and I learned to love it when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Why not make it a filling for pop tarts? I cooked it with raspberries, which have pectin for thickening power (rhubarb doesn’t), but there’s no reason you couldn’t use any flavor of ready-made preserves, homemade or otherwise, as a filling for this treat. And you could skip the sugary frosting if you’d like, too. I only made it because I wanted the pictures to be pretty.

OK, pretty and girly. 🙂

Word to the wise, I would not recommend actually putting these in the toaster. The pie crust pastry is more delicate than a commercial pop tart, and I’m pretty sure you’d have a mess on your hands (not to mention inside the toaster). Also, because these tarts are not filled with preservatives, you will want to eat them up once they are made, but I doubt that will be a problem.

This was a fun, whimsical project, and the tarts were delicious. The icing, however, made them very sweet, so I won’t likely make this exact version again anytime soon. But I’ll tell you this much—if I had grandchildren, we’d be making these easy homemade pop tarts every visit, in as many flavors as the little ones could think up!

What flavor would you make?


Ingredients

Enough to make 8 tarts

Pastry dough for double crust pie (I used store-bought)

About 1/2 cup raspberry-rhubarb filling:

1 heaping cup rhubarb chunks

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1/4 cup cane sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 Tbsp. corn starch, dissolved in 1 Tbsp. cold water


Glaze Icing (optional)

1 Tbsp. heavy cream

2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

About 2 cups powdered sugar

Food coloring, optional

Sparkling sugar, optional


Instructions

Make the fruit filling first, and give it plenty of time to chill in the fridge before making the pastries. Combine rhubarb chunks, raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until the fruit breaks up and mixture is thick, syrupy and bubbling. If the mixture seems thin, whisk in a small amount of cornstarch slurry and cook until it is no longer cloudy in appearance. Transfer to a covered bowl and refrigerate.

To assemble the pastries, spread the pie crust dough out onto a lightly floured countertop or board. If you are using a store-bought rolled crust, use a rolling pin to even out the wrinkles, but do not aim to make it thinner than 1/8 inch. Pinch together any breaks in the dough as best you can. Cut the dough into approximately 3-by-5-inch rectangles. You should be able to get 8 rectangles from each pastry round. Discard the scraps, or do what my Gram always did with extra pie dough: brush the scraps with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then bake them and have the kids try to guess what animal they look like. 🙂

Carefully spread about 1½ tablespoons of the chilled fruit filling onto one set of rectangles, keeping the edges clean at least 1/2 inch on all sides. Top each pastry with a second rectangle. Use a fork to crimp the edges all the way around and to pierce shallow holes in the top surface. It occurred to me while I was doing this step that I could have used egg wash to seal the pastry, but they turned out fine without it. Transfer the pastries to a parchment-lined baking sheet and place the sheet in the freezer while you preheat the oven.

Preheat oven to 400° F, with rack set in center position. If you do not plan to put icing on the tarts, give them a quick brush with egg wash or milk before baking. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven for about 15 minutes, but watch them closely, as the edges of the tarts may want to burn. Carefully transfer the tarts to a rack and cool them completely before icing.

For the icing, whisk together heavy cream and corn syrup until smooth. Gradually add up to 2 cups of powdered sugar, whisking in each addition until smooth. Stir in a couple pf drops of food coloring, if desired, in one of the early sugar additions. The icing should be thick enough to form ribbons when dripped from a spoon, but thin enough to smooth out after a few moments.

Drizzle it thinly over cooled tarts and sprinkle with sparkling sugar or candy sprinkles, if desired. I mean, why not?

Just tripping down memory lane over here… ❤